Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Audio Post Production Primer

Above is a screen-shot from my Pro Tools sound effects pre-mix session for an independent feature called RSTC. The final mix for RSTC was last week. Look for it soon on DVD everywhere; it's a lot of fun.

From time to time I have friends, even family members, ask what I do. I tell them, "I'm a sound designer and sound editor for film and TV", and they say "oh, cool." Then more times than not, they follow up with the question "so WHAT do you do?"

The nomenclature of my job, like almost any industry, is specific and confusing at times. For instance, ADR stands for "Automated Dialogue Replacement". Anyone who knows how ADR works knows that there ain't nuthin' automatic about it. ADR is the process of bringing in an actor to replace a line of dialogue for a movie when the original location sound is unusable. The actor watches the scene on a video monitor, hears three beeps leading up to the line, then reads the line in sync (hopefully) with the shot on screen. This new recording usually must be finessed by a dialogue editor to tighten sync and be prepared for the final mix. There's a lot of set-up time involved as well as post-time. Automated? Yeah, right.

There are many processes involved in creating a soundtrack for a TV show or movie. My favorite is the sound design stage. You can read about the many different aspects of audio post production here at the MPSE website. There are also some good FAQ's.

Above is a screen-shot from my reconformed fx-stem session for reel 1 of the movie Hoodwinked. There were last-minute picture changes, so I reconformed (reconforming is resyncing existing sound files with new picture and filling in all the inevitable gaps in the tracks) all of the previously rerecorded tracks from April/May 2004, added more effects where we needed them, then delivered approximately 50 reconformed sessions to Skywalker Sound for the final rerecording sessions in October 2005. It was the most complicated "fix" I've ever wrapped my head around.

And finally, this is a picture of a sound design suite at Skywalker Sound in the Tech Building. It belonged to Gary Rydstrom (Jurassic Park, T2, The Titanic) for many gigantic movie making years. You can see his synclavier on the console. Chris Boyes (Lord of the Rings, King Kong, Titanic) has worked here, and Randy Thom (The Incredibles, Cast Away, Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi) now calls this suite home. Photo courtesy of custom-consoles.

More to come...